Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has met US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington DC to discuss the controversial extradition bill and the city’s situation.
Lai is the owner of Next Digital which publishes the pro-democracy Apple Daily and Next Magazine, among others. He met the two top officials on Monday.
According to a statement from State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, Pompeo and Lai discussed developments related to amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition bill and “the status of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework.”
Mark Simon, Lai’s assistant, told Radio Free Asia that the two had “constructive discussion about the situation in Hong Kong, human rights, and the broader context with China and Taiwan.
Simon said Lai “thanked Secretary Pompeo for the administration’s concern about human rights, and encouraged continued international attention to Hong Kong and the promises the Chinese government has made,” according to RFA.
Lai’s meeting with Pence at the White House covered the same issues, Simon told RFA.
The meetings came after a series of protests against the extradition bill in June and July. on Sunday, 230,000 people marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to the West Kowloon Terminus of the Express Rail Link to protest against the bill, according to organisers. Later, hundreds marched to Mong Kok before police cleared the crowds with force.
The extradition bill would allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions where there are no prior agreements – most notably, mainland China. Critics have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.
The bill was suspended on June 15 until further notice, but not withdrawn. The protests have since morphed into a wider public display of discontent over dwindling freedoms, democracy and alleged police brutality. On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the legislation process was a complete failure and that “the bill is dead,” but she did not enact any legislative process to withdraw the proposal.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong issued a statement saying that it has lodged a solemn representation to the US Consulate General in Hong Kong to ask the US to stop its “mistaken words and deeds.”
A spokesperson for the local Commissioner’s Office said that it strongly opposed foreign forces interfering in Hong Kong affairs.
“The US side clearly knows who Jimmy Lai is, what his stance is, and what his role is in Hong Kong society. US government top officials have ulterior motives and sent a seriously wrong signal when they queued up to meet such a person at this sensitive time of Hong Kong – we express our strong discontent and opposition,” it said.
The spokesperson also criticised “certain individuals” in Hong Kong as being tools used by foreign forces.
“All Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, look down on such ugly faces and their hideous acts. These traitors and Hong Kong sinners will be pinned on history’s pillar of shame forever.”
In March, former Hong Kong chief secretary Anson Chan met Pence in Washington DC to raise concerns over the city’s issues including the extradition bill.
In May, a delegation led by Democratic Party former lawmaker Martin Lee also met with Pompeo in Washington DC over the extradition bill.